White, Rye, or Pumpernickel ?

Posted in christian, Christianity, Eucharist, homily, inspirational, religion, Resurrection, saints, scripture, Spirit, Word by Rev. Martha on July 30, 2015

18th Sunday Ordinary Time 8-2-15, Exodus 16: 2-15, Ps 78¸ Ephesians 4: 17-24, John 6: 24-35

Let’s start today by diving right into our second reading.  Behind Paul’s scholarly-sounding language is a deep understanding of real life.  Paul walked thousands of miles, and probably taught the Gospel to more people than anyone else in the ancient world.  He preached in streets, in homes, in cities, in synagogues – anywhere that you could image.  From this came real knowledge of what needs to happen to make faith functional in our lives. 

Paul says we can “no longer live… in the futility of our minds.” He’s saying that we like to cling to what we’ve decided to think, and work very hard to make everything around us match up with what we have decided to be truth. We say, “Don’t confuse me with the facts”. There’s a lot of that in today’s Gospel as the people say to Jesus, “What miracle can you do, that we may see and believe in you?”  They wanted “Jesus’ Drive-thru Quick Bread & Fish”, with no cashier.  “Get a side order of salvation.” They wanted “Easy Street” to be reality. 

But St. Paul says, “That’s not how you learned Christ…you were taught that you should put away the old self, corrupted through deceitful desires.”   We decide we Need more stuff, God doesn’t do enough for us. Paul knows that we lie to ourselves and need to change!  What is the remedy?  “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds and put on the new self,” Paul writes. 

Paul writes from experience.  He was working to wipe out Christianity when Jesus came to him; he was directly responsible for the stoning deaths of Christians.  He was “breathing murderous threats” when Jesus appeared to him.  He was convinced he was right – and righteous. But, if you recall Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, you know that meeting with real “righteousness, holiness, and truth ” stunned Paul into changing his life, putting on a “new self”, and as a result he truly changed the world.  Remember, Jesus loves us, despite anything we’ve done.

With that background, we come to the Gospel.  Jesus has to tell the crowd, “You were looking for me not because you saw miracles, but because you ate the loaves and were filled.  Don’t work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which I WILL GIVE you.” 

“Ok”, the people say, “What do we have to do?”  But they had only listened up to the part about the food; that was their “reality”.  What Paul called “the futility of their minds” had trapped them.  Jesus was talking about eternity; they were thinking about lunch. 

It’s easy to understand why the people reacted like they did.  Theirs was a culture of constant near starvation.  A full day’s work paid for nothing but a day’s food.   Hunger was very real to them, and I get why their minds were on manna – free food that appeared each day, bread from heaven.  “Sir”, they say, “Give us this bread always.”  I can imagine their confusion when Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.”

So here is the centerpiece of the entire passage. “I am the bread of life.” Jesus knows full well about hunger and thirst. God created us to be more than animals who stand in the field, eating grass. Life is more than white, rye or pumpernickel. Life is love, community, family, worship, eternity. Drive-thrus sell food, not give life. Jesus sustains the soul in a way that far exceeds bread filling the stomach. “I am the way, the truth and the life” is not a statement about which religion is the best, but an open door to life beyond our imagining. Jesus is the bread of love, community, family, the very substance of the spirit of God, the essence of life.

 The early church understood.  James 2:15-17 “ If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”  On page 12, at the bottom, in the Saturday Baltimore Sun, is this one-paragraph article: “The World Food Program announced new cuts…in food aid for Syrian refugees in Jordan…” There are 629,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, and their monthly food allotment is as low as $7.00.  More than half of these are children. There is no money after August for over 3 million children.   The early church may have understood Jesus, but today’s world – not so much.

Jesus tells the people, “This is the work of God:  that you believe in the one he sent.”  He is teaching priority #1.  First, we believe and love God.  If we do that, then loving each other is a given.  It is a part of loving God.  It is belief itself; the two cannot be separated.  Loving God is believing that God is the source of life.  God brings life to not only our body, but also our soul. This is not different from loving each other and caring for each other, body and soul, stomach and spirit.  Our love of God is based on a risen Christ, and Christ’s love for us was God’s love.  This is all one idea, one belief, one faith.  If the love is real, then the bread comes with it.  

Lord, renew the spirit of our minds, and help us to live in your truth.


Trust God to Relieve Your Worries

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by fatherjimb on August 2, 2009

There were two items that appeared in The Washington Post this week that resonate with what we hear today in the readings. The first was a story about a small group of Franciscan novices who, as part of their preparation for final vows, walked from Roanoke to the Franciscan Shrine of the Holy Land in DC. In the spirit of St Francis they only took with them their habits, one change of underwear, a woolen blanket, a bottle of water and the shoes on their feet. Left behind were money, food and the simple comforts we take for granted. The only concession they made was that if people offered money they would use it to buy power bars for that day, the rest they would give to the poor.

Their journey through the roads of Virginia was a real testament to the Gospel message today since the first thing they needed to do was place their trust in God to provide what they needed along the way.   On their first night on the road, a local fire department allowed them to use the trampoline behind the station as a bed (not a good idea as they soon found out).   Outside of Harrisonburg they met were a 40 year old woman and her daughter who had been tossed out of their home when she discovered her husband cheating on her.   Speaking with the friars her daughter searched in the car and found a candy bar she gave to them, a little later she wound a can of soda she also gave to them.  Finally, as their discussion wound down the mother reached into her purse and gave them $3.52, all the money she had and placed her trust in God to provide what she and her daughter need.

On their journey a handful of people jeered them as weirdos or costumed characters from a Star Wars movie. Most, however, found the message of the Gospel exemplified in how they joyfully traveled and spoke gently to all they met.

The other item that appeared in the Post was the obituary for the Rev Ike, who preached the “gospel” of prosperity. One of his most famous lines was that the best way to help the poor was not to be one of them. Don’t wait for the pie-in-the sky reward others preach, reach for the gold now. He and a number of store front ministers have made a financial windfall on taking from the poor and giving to themselves to become rich.

In the first story we have the tale of those who put their trust in God and find satisfaction in their daily lives. The individuals the friars encountered along the way were hungry and they went away satisfied because they saw what trust was all about.

We in America are hungry for something we can’t describe. We amass things thinking this will satisfy our needs and come away empty. God constantly looks after our needs providing us with what we need, not necessarily what we want. We Americans, like the wandering Israelites in the desert, do nothing but complain. The seeming success of the “Cash for Clunkers” program surprised many, yet when the dealers were interviewed they could only complain that the government had not sent them the cash and buyers wanted to know why they couldn’t get more. In our own lives we worry that our homes have lost their value and forget that we even have homes. We worry that our IRAs do not have the money we think we’ll need for retirement and forget that we will even have the opportunity to even stop working.

There is a story about Mother Teresa who heard about a Christian family who had nothing to eat for several days. Moved with pity she came to their home with enough rice for one meal. Upon receiving this gift the mother of the household divided it into two bowls, taking the one bowl to her neighbor, a Muslim woman. Mother Teresa questioned her as to why she would do this if this was barely enough for them. The woman’s response was simply, “They have not eaten for as many days as we and are hungry too.”

Perhaps we need a daily reminder of this so I’d like to suggest that rather than using the formulaic “Bless us O Lord” form of grace that we instead ask the Lord to help us feed the poor and to satisfy our hearts for as St Augustine said “Our hearts are restless, Lord, until we find our rest in you.” God will provide what we need.